The masked lapwing have large yellow wattles covering the face and are equipped with a thorny spur that projects from the wrist on each wing. Photo: Contributed.
The masked lapwing have large yellow wattles covering the face and are equipped with a thorny spur that projects from the wrist on each wing. Photo: Contributed.

Quirky character: Unmasking the ‘plover’

The masked lapwing is a species related to waders which are a group of birds that usually have long legs for feeding in shallow water.

The masked lapwing has evolved to spend much of its time feeding on insects and earthworms that it collects from just below the surface of the ground.

While it still visits marshes, mudflats and beaches it is often seen in urban areas where it has learned to tolerate human presence.

Mainly white below, with brown wings and back and a black crown.

They have large yellow wattles covering the face, and are equipped with a thorny spur that projects from the wrist on each wing, which is yellow with a black tip.

They have reckless nesting habits and will make a nest on almost any stretch of open ground, including suburban parks and gardens, school ovals, and even supermarket carparks and flat rooftops.

The nest itself is a rudimentary scrape in the ground where they will lay up to four eggs. Both sexes share the incubation and feeding the young hatchlings.

They are notorious for the defence of their nest and will dive on intruders making a high pitched call.

Attacks are mostly against other birds such as crows when they will use their spur to inflict injury but this can result in a broken wing.

They also have a distraction display to lure predators away from the nest such as hopping on one leg or dragging a wing to simulate injury.

Many birds in residential suburban areas, may never successfully breed due to increased disturbance from domestic pets, people on footpaths and cars.

Once the chicks leave the nest they will stay with the parents for up to two years and can be seen as a family group often crossing a busy road and stopping traffic.

This bird has a lot of personality and has chosen to live in suburban areas, we should make it welcome as a colourful and quirky addition to our landscape.

Allan Briggs is the secretary of BirdLife Capricornia. You can contact him with your bird questions at abriggs@irock.com.au